Saturday, January 10, 2015


For those people unfamiliar with Xavier University's extensive core curriculum, all students are required to take an incomparably large amount of classes that do not have to do with any particular degree program. Among these classes is the infamous Theology 111, an introductory class to scripture including both the Old and New Testaments. While many students simply try to leave the class with a passing grade as they remember what passages represent and the history of Jesus’ ministry, I remember vividly one concept that my professor, Fr. Overberg emphasized over and over throughout the course. The idea of peak experiences, which is also a major idea behind the psychological principles of Abraham Marlow, suggests that certain events have the capability to encapsulate and bring together the mystical and the human aspects of our lives. In other words, because of this experience, everything just makes sense. In Theo 111, the early parts of Judaism and Christianity were presented as their own separate peak experiences, which we encounter today as we read the Bible. So it makes sense that for us to find God, we have to experience something powerful enough for it all to make sense.

As this amazing team of 17 individuals and myself departed from the clinic for the last time yesterday afternoon, the sun was in the process of setting, and cast a red hue on the clouds hanging above one of the volcanoes surrounding Lake Atitlan. Standing on the hill looking at the volcano, I realized that this past week was one of those peak experiences. Looking up at the heavens, it all just made sense. I felt as if I had found purpose to my own life, not just achievement in what I had come here to do.

Over the course of the week, I had done every of the possible stations in clinic, from the hustle and bustle of triage to the relaxed atmosphere of dental. Every day presented it challenges, whether it be from the medications of a diabetic patient, the obvious language barrier, or even trying to pick avocados on a thirty degree uphill slope for our rabbi. Yet each day was also full of innumerable blessings, but being able to follow up with the asthmatic patient from my last blog everyday of this week was something truly remarkable to me. Many thanks go out to Dr. Walters for letting me sit in on all of her visits. Every visit taught me so much about every aspect of medical care; the logical heuristic behind diagnostics, the human aspect of communication, and something I wanted to emphasize, continuity of care. This woman has little to nothing relative to what we have here in America. The least we could do for her as a team would be to make sure she had the same level and quality of care everyday she came in. At our last visit, the patient presented with improvement yet again, and we felt we had succeeded in what we had wanted to do with her during our time in the clinic. Her gratitude was immense, but the gratitude I have for her and her health cannot be quantified.

There were so many of these events in Patanatic this week. Even through all of the bubble soap, stickers, and stains that came from my dental rotation, there wasn't a single thing I would take back from this week. Looking back on the experience now, it is as if I was supposed to be experienced to all of these things. During a dedication ceremony for the clinic, Rabbi Ingber said some words that will stick with me for an eternity. He explained how even though we may heal the people of Patantic medically, these individuals are actually here to heal us. As deep as that may appear superficially, it clicked immediately for me. I experienced all these amazing things, from diabetic and pediatric patients in clinic, to going to experience their home lives, that it couldn't have been by chance. I realized staring at that mountain, and looking back at our mountain village, that I had been sent here on purpose by something greater than Xavier University. It doesn't matter what we call that heavenly force, but I have realized it is quite real, and grown closer to it during this trip. This force showed me what I can do with my gifts that were bestowed upon me, and that I need to continue to use these skills to do what I can to protect patients, each of whom bring their own special gifts to this world.

As we arrived in Antigua today, and entered the city's cathedral, I was overcome by the emotions of the past week and did something I don't do quite enough. I got down and prayed. I prayed for all of our patients this past week, this amazing team, and all my friends and family back at home and XU. Something has overtaken my spirit in Guatemala, and made sense of a cluttered time in my life. I can never be thankful enough for this experience, and to all of the amazing people I have met and had the absolute pleasure to work with. Paraphrasing Dr. Walters during one of our dinner discussions, this team is a group of idealists, and we will not stop until we have made our mark on this world. Now it is on to my next journey; I don't know where that will be, but because of this trip, and it all coming together, you can bet I won't settle until I've left whatever mark I was destined to leave.

Cooper Quartermaine

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